By Rahil Nora Chopra
It was the ‘game of throne’ that led to Charanjit Singh Channi being appointed Punjab’s first Dalit Chief Minister, who also happens to be the first non-Jat Sikh to be CM since Giani Zail Singh (1972-1977), over four decades ago after the other top contenders all check-mated each other. Before this, Congress MP Ambika Soni had rejected the offer proposed to her to become the chief minister of Punjab. She instead suggested a Sikh leader to take up the position. It was Manpreet Badal who rendered the suggestion to all and pitched Channi’s name to the Congress high command. Channi is not only a Dalit, but also a Sikh. Channi is known to get along well with deputy chief minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa as well as Navjot Singh Sidhu. In addition, he is also close to Rahul Gandhi. He was seen as one who will not be overbearing, will toe the line and will silence BJP, Akali Dal and AAP’s demands for a Dalit CM. At 32 percent, Punjab has one of the highest populations of Dalits in the country. Although Jat Sikhs constitute only 25 per cent of the population, they have traditionally monopolised political power in the state. Although Congress has 20 Dalit MLAs –the 117-member assembly has 36 reserved constituencies–only three of them were included in the Cabinet. With a Jat Sikh as the PCC chief in Navjot Singh Sidhu and Charanjit Singh Channi as the Dalit CM, the Congress party has made a long overdue reform, and has sought to distribute power more equitably. By choosing Channi, the Congress has managed to upstage the entire Opposition and sending a national message.
SACHIN PILOT COULD BE RAJASTHAN CONGRESS GENERAL SECRETARY SOON
After Punjab, a political stir has once again commenced in Rajasthan as supporters and loyalists of Sachin Pilot raised their voice demanding a leadership change in the state. Senior Congress leader Sachin Pilot had met Rahul Gandhi on September 17 to discuss the issues riling up the young leader. While Rajasthan in-charge Ajay Maken has already prepared a template for a rejig in the state government, the party is waiting for Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot to recover before any announcement is made. CM Gehlot has undergone heart surgery and is avoiding public interactions. According to Congress insiders, there is a possibility that Congress high-command could make Sachin Pilot the general secretary in-charge of Gujarat and his loyalists will be adjusted in the cabinet. However, a clearer and major change could probably happen after the Punjab and UP elections. The leadership was keen on focusing on the immediate challenge at hand and an outreach to Sachin Pilot was more to reassure him that the party still owe his due importance.
MAJOR RESHUFFLE IN HIMACHAL BJP IN THE PIPELINE
After the replacement of BJP Chief Ministers in Assam, Karnataka, Uttarakhand and Gujarat, now the speculation is rife for a change of the post of the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, currently held by Jairam Thakur. Meanwhile, BJP state spokesperson Randhir Sharma and state forest minister Rakesh Pathania had issued a statement that the next assembly election in Himachal Pradesh will be fought under the leadership of Jairam Thakur. According to BJP sources in Delhi, BJP high-command has instructed both of them not to issue any such statements, but it is assumed that there will be reshuffle in Himachal Pradesh soon.
AFTER NITISH, NOW LALU DEMANDS CASTE CENSUS
After Chief Minister Nitish Kumar demanded that the Centre should initiate a caste-based census, now Rashtriya Janata Dal president Lalu Prasad Yadav on Wednesday reiterated the demand for caste census and favoured breaking the 50 percent ceiling on reservations if the population of SCs, STs and OBCs was found to be more than half of the total. Lalu Prasad, who has been making moments in Delhi after his release from jail earlier this year, made the remarks while addressing a training camp of his party’s workers organised in Patna, to which he was connected online. Lalu Prasad’s younger son Tejashwi Yadav, who is the leader of the opposition in state assembly, had recently met Prime Minister Narendra Modi to broach the issue of caste census as part of a delegation headed by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. The RJD chief said his party workers must learn from the disciplined and committed cadre based organizational structure in left parties. He also suggested that party workers should wear a gamcha and green topi (small cap) for their identity as an RJD worker, as is prevalent in parties like Samajwadi Party.
CAPTAIN OPENS FRONT AGAINST SIDHU, SAYS HURT BY GANDHIS
Captain Amarinder Singh who had been asked to step down as Punjab Chief Minister by the Congress has opened a front against state party president Navjot Singh Sidhu but has not firmly reprimanded the BJP over the contentious farm laws. Former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh said he would never allow Navjot Singh Sidhu to become the chief minister of Punjab. The senior Congress leader said he would pit a strong candidate against Sidhu so that he can’t become the chief minister, even as he expressed shock at the way the Punjab unit of Congress was being run from Delhi. In a statement put out, it was revealed that Captain disclosed he had offered his resignation to Sonia Gandhi three weeks earlier, but she had asked him to continue.“If she had called me and asked me to step down, I would have,” he said, adding that “as a soldier, I know how to do my task and leave once called back.” He said, “Priyanka and Rahul (Gandhi siblings) are like my children… this should not have ended like this. I am hurt.” Captain Amarinder Singh further said that the Gandhi children were quite inexperienced and their advisers were clearly misguiding them. While the Congress is keeping a close eye on the activities of the former Punjab CM, triggering speculation over Captain’s further political plans. Congress is also trying to balance the equations while deciding the Cabinet so as not to annoy the MLAs. There are reports that Captain may be making a big announcement about his political future in October. (IPA)